The History of England from the Accession of James II, Vol. 5
Thomas Babington Macaulay

Part 2 out of 5

justice than they desired. If they had been called to account for
great and real wrong in 1695, we should not have had them here
complaining of imaginary wrong in 1698."

The fight was protracted by the obstinacy and dexterity of the
Old Company and its friends from the first week of May to the
last week in June. It seems that many even of Montague's
followers doubted whether the promised two millions would be
forthcoming. His enemies confidently predicted that the General
Society would be as complete a failure as the Land Bank had been
in the year before the last, and that he would in the autumn find
himself in charge of an empty exchequer. His activity and
eloquence, however, prevailed. On the twenty-sixth of June, after
many laborious sittings, the question was put that this Bill do
pass, and was carried by one hundred and fifteen votes to
seventy-eight. In the upper House, the conflict was short and
sharp. Some peers declared that, in their opinion, the
subscription to the proposed loan, far from amounting to the two
millions which the Chancellor of the Exchequer expected, would
fall far short of one million. Others, with much reason,
complained that a law of such grave importance should have been
sent up to them in such a shape that they must either take the
whole or throw out the whole. The privilege of the Commons with
respect to money bills had of late been grossly abused. The Bank
had been created by one money bill; this General Society was to
be created by another money bill. Such a bill the Lords could not
amend; they might indeed reject it; but to reject it was to shake
the foundations of public credit and to leave the kingdom
defenceless. Thus one branch of the legislature was
systematically put under duress by the other, and seemed likely
to be reduced to utter insignificance. It was better that the
government should be once pinched for money than that the House
of Peers should cease to be part of the Constitution. So strong
was this feeling that the Bill was carried only by sixty-five to
forty-eight. It received the royal sanction on the fifth of July.
The King then spoke from the throne. This was the first occasion
on which a King of England had spoken to a Parliament of which
the existence was about to be terminated, not by his own act, but
by the act of the law. He could not, he said, take leave of the
Lords and Gentlemen before him without publicly acknowledging the
great things which they had done for his dignity and for the
welfare of the nation. He recounted the chief services which they
had, during three eventful sessions, rendered to the country.
"These things will," he said, "give a lasting reputation to this
Parliament, and will be a subject of emulation to Parliaments
which shall come after." The Houses were then prorogued.

During the week which followed there was some anxiety as to the
result of the subscription for the stock of the General Society.
If that subscription failed, there would be a deficit; public
credit would be shaken; and Montague would be regarded as a
pretender who had owed his reputation to a mere run of good luck,
and who had tempted chance once too often. But the event was such
as even his sanguine spirit had scarcely ventured to anticipate.
At one in the afternoon of the 14th of July the books were opened
at the Hall of the Company of Mercers in Cheapside. An immense
crowd was already collected in the street. As soon as the doors
were flung wide, wealthy citizens, with their money in their
hands, pressed in, pushing and elbowing each other. The guineas
were paid down faster than the clerks could count them. Before
night six hundred thousand pounds had been subscribed. The next
day the throng was as great. More than one capitalist put down
his name for thirty thousand pounds. To the astonishment of those
ill boding politicians who were constantly repeating that the
war, the debt, the taxes, the grants to Dutch courtiers, had
ruined the kingdom, the sum, which it had been doubted whether
England would be able to raise in many weeks, was subscribed by
London in a few hours. The applications from the provincial towns
and rural districts came too late. The merchants of Bristol had
intended to take three hundred thousand pounds of the stock, but
had waited to learn how the subscription went on before they gave
their final orders; and, by the time that the mail had gone down
to Bristol and returned, there was no more stock to be had.

This was the moment at which the fortunes of Montague reached the
meridian. The decline was close at hand. His ability and his
constant success were everywhere talked of with admiration and
envy. That man, it was commonly said, has never wanted, and never
will want, an expedient.

During the long and busy session which had just closed, some
interesting and important events had taken place which may
properly be mentioned here. One of those events was the
destruction of the most celebrated palace in which the sovereigns
of England have ever dwelt. On the evening of the 4th of January,
a woman,--the patriotic journalists and pamphleteers of that time
did not fail to note that she was a Dutchwoman,--who was employed
as a laundress at Whitehall, lighted a charcoal fire in her room
and placed some linen round it. The linen caught fire and burned
furiously. The tapestry, the bedding, the wainscots were soon in
a blaze. The unhappy woman who had done the mischief perished.
Soon the flames burst out of the windows. All Westminster, all
the Strand, all the river were in commotion. Before midnight the
King's apartments, the Queen's apartments, the Wardrobe, the
Treasury, the office of the Privy Council, the office of the
Secretary of State, had been destroyed. The two chapels perished
together; that ancient chapel where Wolsey had heard mass in the
midst of gorgeous copes, golden candlesticks, and jewelled
crosses, and that modern edifice which had been erected for the
devotions of James and had been embellished by the pencil of
Verrio and the chisel of Gibbons. Meanwhile a great extent of
building had been blown up; and it was hoped that by this
expedient a stop had been put to the conflagration. But early in
the morning a new fire broke out of the heaps of combustible
matter which the gunpowder had scattered to right and left. The
guard room was consumed. No trace was left of that celebrated
gallery which had witnessed so many balls and pageants, in which
so many maids of honour had listened too easily to the vows and
flatteries of gallants, and in which so many bags of gold had
changed masters at the hazard table. During some time men
despaired of the Banqueting House. The flames broke in on the
south of that beautiful hall, and were with great difficulty
extinguished by the exertions of the guards, to whom Cutts,
mindful of his honourable nickname of the Salamander, set as good
an example on this night of terror as he had set in the breach of
Namur. Many lives were lost, and many grievous wounds were
inflicted by the falling masses of stone and timber, before the
fire was effectually subdued. When day broke, the heaps of
smoking ruins spread from Scotland Yard to the Bowling Green,
where the mansion of the Duke of Buccleuch now stands. The
Banqueting House was safe; but the graceful columns and festoons
designed by Inigo were so much defaced and blackened that their
form could hardly be discerned. There had been time to move the
most valuable effects which were moveable. Unfortunately some of
Holbein's finest pictures were painted on the walls, and are
consequently known to us only by copies and engravings. The books
of the Treasury and of the Privy Council were rescued, and are
still preserved. The Ministers whose offices had been burned down
were provided with new offices in the neighbourhood. Henry the
Eighth had built, close to St. James's Park, two appendages to
the Palace of Whitehall, a cockpit and a tennis court. The
Treasury now occupies the site of the cockpit, the Privy Council
Office the site of the tennis court.

Notwithstanding the many associations which make the name of
Whitehall still interesting to an Englishman, the old building
was little regretted. It was spacious indeed and commodious, but
mean and inelegant. The people of the capital had been annoyed by
the scoffing way in which foreigners spoke of the principal
residence of our sovereigns, and often said that it was a pity
that the great fire had not spared the old portico of St. Paul's
and the stately arcades of Gresham's Bourse, and taken in
exchange that ugly old labyrinth of dingy brick and plastered
timber. It might now be hoped that we should have a Louvre.
Before the ashes of the old palace were cold, plans for a new
palace were circulated and discussed. But William, who could not
draw his breath in the air of Westminster, was little disposed to
expend a million on a house which it would have been impossible
for him to inhabit. Many blamed him for not restoring the
dwelling of his predecessors; and a few Jacobites, whom evil
temper and repeated disappointments had driven almost mad,
accused him of having burned it down. It was not till long after
his death that Tory writers ceased to call for the rebuilding of
Whitehall, and to complain that the King of England had no better
town house than St. James's, while the delightful spot where the
Tudors and the Stuarts had held their councils and their revels
was covered with the mansions of his jobbing courtiers.9

In the same week in which Whitehall perished, the Londoners were
supplied with a new topic of conversation by a royal visit,
which, of all royal visits, was the least pompous and ceremonious
and yet the most interesting and important. On the 10th of
January a vessel from Holland anchored off Greenwich and was
welcomed with great respect. Peter the First, Czar of Muscovy,
was on board. He took boat with a few attendants and was rowed up
the Thames to Norfolk Street, where a house overlooking the river
had been prepared for his reception.

His journey is an epoch in the history, not only of his own
country, but of our's, and of the world. To the polished nations
of Western Europe, the empire which he governed had till then
been what Bokhara or Siam is to us. That empire indeed, though
less extensive than at present, was the most extensive that had
ever obeyed a single chief. The dominions of Alexander and of
Trajan were small when compared with the immense area of the
Scythian desert. But in the estimation of statesmen that
boundless expanse of larch forest and morass, where the snow lay
deep during eight months of every year, and where a wretched
peasantry could with difficulty defend their hovels against
troops of famished wolves, was of less account than the two or
three square miles into which were crowded the counting houses,
the warehouses, and the innumerable masts of Amsterdam. On the
Baltic Russia had not then a single port. Her maritime trade with
the other rations of Christendom was entirely carried on at
Archangel, a place which had been created and was supported by
adventurers from our island. In the days of the Tudors, a ship
from England, seeking a north east passage to the land of silk
and spice, had discovered the White Sea. The barbarians who dwelt
on the shores of that dreary gulf had never before seen such a
portent as a vessel of a hundred and sixty tons burden. They fled
in terror; and, when they were pursued and overtaken, prostrated
themselves before the chief of the strangers and kissed his feet.
He succeeded in opening a friendly communication with them; and
from that time there had been a regular commercial intercourse
between our country and the subjects of the Czar. A Russia
Company was incorporated in London. An English factory was built
at Archangel. That factory was indeed, even in the latter part of
the seventeenth century, a rude and mean building. The walls
consisted of trees laid one upon another; and the roof was of
birch bark. This shelter, however, was sufficient in the long
summer day of the Arctic regions. Regularly at that season
several English ships cast anchor in the bay. A fair was held on
the beach. Traders came from a distance of many hundreds of miles
to the only mart where they could exchange hemp and tar, hides
and tallow, wax and honey, the fur of the sable and the
wolverine, and the roe of the sturgeon of the Volga, for
Manchester stuffs, Sheffield knives, Birmingham buttons, sugar
from Jamaica and pepper from Malabar. The commerce in these
articles was open. But there was a secret traffic which was not
less active or less lucrative, though the Russian laws had made
it punishable, and though the Russian divines pronounced it
damnable. In general the mandates of princes and the lessons of
priests were received by the Muscovite with profound reverence.
But the authority of his princes and of his priests united could
not keep him from tobacco. Pipes he could not obtain; but a cow's
horn perforated served his turn. From every Archangel fair rolls
of the best Virginia speedily found their way to Novgorod and

The commercial intercourse between England and Russia made some
diplomatic intercourse necessary. The diplomatic intercourse
however was only occasional. The Czar had no permanent minister
here. We had no permanent minister at Moscow; and even at
Archangel we had no consul. Three or four times in a century
extraordinary embassies were sent from Whitehall to the Kremlin
and from the Kremlin to Whitehall.

The English embassies had historians whose narratives may still
be read with interest. Those historians described vividly, and
sometimes bitterly, the savage ignorance and the squalid poverty
of the barbarous country in which they had sojourned. In that
country, they said, there was neither literature nor science,
neither school nor college. It was not till more than a hundred
years after the invention of printing that a single printing
press had been introduced into the Russian empire; and that
printing press had speedily perished in a fire which was supposed
to have been kindled by the priests. Even in the seventeenth
century the library of a prelate of the first dignity consisted
of a few manuscripts. Those manuscripts too were in long rolls;
for the art of bookbinding was unknown. The best educated men
could barely read and write. It was much if the secretary to whom
was entrusted the direction of negotiations with foreign powers
had a sufficient smattering of Dog Latin to make himself
understood. The arithmetic was the arithmetic of the dark ages.
The denary notation was unknown. Even in the Imperial Treasury
the computations were made by the help of balls strung on wires.
Round the person of the Sovereign there was a blaze of gold and
jewels; but even in his most splendid palaces were to be found
the filth and misery of an Irish cabin. So late as the year 1663
the gentlemen of the retinue of the Earl of Carlisle were, in the
city of Moscow, thrust into a single bedroom, and were told that,
if they did not remain together, they would be in danger of being
devoured by rats.

Such was the report which the English legations made of what they
had seen and suffered in Russia; and their evidence was confirmed
by the appearance which the Russian legations made in England.
The strangers spoke no civilised language. Their garb, their
gestures, their salutations, had a wild and barbarous character.
The ambassador and the grandees who accompanied him were so
gorgeous that all London crowded to stare at them, and so filthy
that nobody dared to touch them. They came to the court balls
dropping pearls and vermin. It was said that one envoy cudgelled
the lords of his train whenever they soiled or lost any part of
their finery, and that another had with difficulty been prevented
from putting his son to death for the crime of shaving and
dressing after the French fashion.

Our ancestors therefore were not a little surprised to learn that
a young barbarian, who had, at seventeen years of age, become the
autocrat of the immense region stretching from the confines of
Sweden to those of China, and whose education had been inferior
to that of an English farmer or shopman, had planned gigantic
improvements, had learned enough of some languages of Western
Europe to enable him to communicate with civilised men, had begun
to surround himself with able adventurers from various parts of
the world, had sent many of his young subjects to study
languages, arts and sciences in foreign cities, and finally had
determined to travel as a private man, and to discover, by
personal observation, the secret of the immense prosperity and
power enjoyed by some communities whose whole territory was far
less than the hundredth part of his dominions.

It might have been expected that France would have been the first
object of his curiosity. For the grace and dignity of the French
King, the splendour of the French Court, the discipline of the
French armies, and the genius and learning of the French writers,
were then renowned all over the world. But the Czar's mind had
early taken a strange ply which it retained to the last. His
empire was of all empires the least capable of being made a great
naval power. The Swedish provinces lay between his States and the
Baltic. The Bosporus and the Dardanelles lay between his States
and the Mediterranean. He had access to the ocean only in a
latitude in which navigation is, during a great part of every
year, perilous and difficult. On the ocean he had only a single
port, Archangel; and the whole shipping of Archangel was foreign.
There did not exist a Russian vessel larger than a fishing-boat.
Yet, from some cause which cannot now be traced, he had a taste
for maritime pursuits which amounted to a passion, indeed almost
to a monomania. His imagination was full of sails, yardarms, and
rudders. That large mind, equal to the highest duties of the
general and the statesman, contracted itself to the most minute
details of naval architecture and naval discipline. The chief
ambition of the great conqueror and legislator was to be a good
boatswain and a good ship's carpenter. Holland and England
therefore had for him an attraction which was wanting to the
galleries and terraces of Versailles. He repaired to Amsterdam,
took a lodging in the dockyard, assumed the garb of a pilot, put
down his name on the list of workmen, wielded with his own hand
the caulking iron and the mallet, fixed the pumps, and twisted
the ropes. Ambassadors who came to pay their respects to him were
forced, much against their will, to clamber up the rigging of a
man of war, and found him enthroned on the cross trees.

Such was the prince whom the populace of London now crowded to
behold. His stately form, his intellectual forehead, his piercing
black eyes, his Tartar nose and mouth, his gracious smile, his
frown black with all the stormy rage and hate of a barbarian
tyrant, and above all a strange nervous convulsion which
sometimes transformed his countenance during a few moments, into
an object on which it was impossible to look without terror, the
immense quantities of meat which he devoured, the pints of brandy
which he swallowed, and which, it was said, he had carefully
distilled with his own hands, the fool who jabbered at his feet,
the monkey which grinned at the back of his chair, were, during
some weeks, popular topics of conversation. He meanwhile shunned
the public gaze with a haughty shyness which inflamed curiosity.
He went to a play; but, as soon as he perceived that pit, boxes
and galleries were staring, not at the stage, but at him, he
retired to a back bench where he was screened from observation by
his attendants. He was desirous to see a sitting of the House of
Lords; but, as he was determined not to be seen, he was forced to
climb up to the leads, and to peep through a small window. He
heard with great interest the royal assent given to a bill for
raising fifteen hundred thousand pounds by land tax, and learned
with amazement that this sum, though larger by one half than the
whole revenue which he could wring from the population of the
immense empire of which he was absolute master, was but a small
part of what the Commons of England voluntarily granted every
year to their constitutional King.

William judiciously humoured the whims of his illustrious guest,
and stole to Norfolk Street so quietly that nobody in the
neighbourhood recognised His Majesty in the thin gentleman who
got out of the modest looking coach at the Czar's lodgings. The
Czar returned the visit with the same precautions, and was
admitted into Kensington House by a back door. It was afterwards
known that he took no notice of the fine pictures with which the
palace was adorned. But over the chimney of the royal sitting
room was a plate which, by an ingenious machinery, indicated the
direction of the wind; and with this plate he was in raptures.

He soon became weary of his residence. He found that he was too
far from the objects of his curiosity, and too near to the crowds
to which he was himself an object of curiosity. He accordingly
removed to Deptford, and was there lodged in the house of John
Evelyn, a house which had long been a favourite resort of men of
letters, men of taste and men of science. Here Peter gave himself
up to his favourite pursuits. He navigated a yacht every day up
and down the river. His apartment was crowded with models of
three deckers and two deckers, frigates, sloops and fireships.
The only Englishman of rank in whose society he seemed to take
much pleasure was the eccentric Caermarthen, whose passion for
the sea bore some resemblance to his own, and who was very
competent to give an opinion about every part of a ship from the
stem to the stern. Caermarthen, indeed, became so great a
favourite that he prevailed on the Czar to consent to the
admission of a limited quantity of tobacco into Russia. There was
reason to apprehend that the Russian clergy would cry out against
any relaxation of the ancient rule, and would strenuously
maintain that the practice of smoking was condemned by that text
which declares that man is defiled, not by those things which
enter in at the mouth, but by those which proceed out of it. This
apprehension was expressed by a deputation of merchants who were
admitted to an audience of the Czar; but they were reassured by
the air with which he told them that he knew how to keep priests
in order.

He was indeed so free from any bigoted attachment to the religion
in which he had been brought up that both Papists and Protestants
hoped at different times to make him a proselyte. Burnet,
commissioned by his brethren, and impelled, no doubt, by his own
restless curiosity and love of meddling, repaired to Deptford and
was honoured with several audiences. The Czar could not be
persuaded to exhibit himself at Saint Paul's; but he was induced
to visit Lambeth palace. There he saw the ceremony of ordination
performed, and expressed warm approbation of the Anglican ritual.
Nothing in England astonished him so much as the Archiepiscopal
library. It was the first good collection of books that he had
seen; and he declared that he had never imagined that there were
so many printed volumes in the world.

The impression which he made on Burnet was not favourable. The
good bishop could not understand that a mind which seemed to be
chiefly occupied with questions about the best place for a
capstan and the best way of rigging a jury mast might be capable,
not merely of ruling an empire, but of creating a nation. He
complained that he had gone to see a great prince, and had found
only an industrious shipwright. Nor does Evelyn seem to have
formed a much more favourable opinion of his august tenant. It
was, indeed, not in the character of tenant that the Czar was
likely to gain the good word of civilised men. With all the high
qualities which were peculiar to himself, he had all the filthy
habits which were then common among his countrymen. To the end of
his life, while disciplining armies, founding schools, framing
codes, organising tribunals, building cities in deserts, joining
distant seas by artificial rivers, he lived in his palace like a
hog in a sty; and, when he was entertained by other sovereigns,
never failed to leave on their tapestried walls and velvet state
beds unequivocal proof that a savage had been there. Evelyn's
house was left in such a state that the Treasury quieted his
complaints with a considerable sum of money.

Towards the close of March the Czar visited Portsmouth, saw a
sham seafight at Spithead, watched every movement of the
contending fleets with intense interest, and expressed in warm
terms his gratitude to the hospitable government which had
provided so delightful a spectacle for his amusement and
instruction. After passing more than three months in England, he
departed in high good humour.10

His visit, his singular character, and what was rumoured of his
great designs, excited much curiosity here, but nothing more than
curiosity. England had as yet nothing to hope or to fear from his
vast empire. All her serious apprehensions were directed towards
a different quarter. None could say how soon France, so lately an
enemy, might be an enemy again.

The new diplomatic relations between the two great western powers
were widely different from those which had existed before the
war. During the eighteen years which had elapsed between the
signing of the Treaty of Dover and the Revolution, all the envoys
who had been sent from Whitehall to Versailles had been mere
sycophants of the great King. In England the French ambassador
had been the object of a degrading worship. The chiefs of both
the great parties had been his pensioners and his tools. The
ministers of the Crown had paid him open homage. The leaders of
the opposition had stolen into his house by the back door. Kings
had stooped to implore his good offices, had persecuted him for
money with the importunity of street beggars; and, when they had
succeeded in obtaining from him a box of doubloons or a bill of
exchange, had embraced him with tears of gratitude and joy. But
those days were past. England would never again send a Preston or
a Skelton to bow down before the majesty of France. France would
never again send a Barillon to dictate to the cabinet of England.
Henceforth the intercourse between the two states would be on
terms of perfect equality.

William thought it necessary that the minister who was to
represent him at the French Court should be a man of the first
consideration, and one on whom entire reliance could be reposed.
Portland was chosen for this important and delicate mission; and
the choice was eminently judicious. He had, in the negotiations
of the preceding year, shown more ability than was to be found in
the whole crowd of formalists who had been exchanging notes and
drawing up protocols at Ryswick. Things which had been kept
secret from the plenipotentiaries who had signed the treaty were
well known to him. The clue of the whole foreign policy of
England and Holland was in his possession. His fidelity and
diligence were beyond all praise. These were strong
recommendations. Yet it seemed strange to many that William
should have been willing to part, for a considerable time, from a
companion with whom he had during a quarter of a century lived on
terms of entire confidence and affection. The truth was that the
confidence was still what it had long been, but that the
affection, though it was not yet extinct, though it had not even
cooled, had become a cause of uneasiness to both parties. Till
very recently, the little knot of personal friends who had
followed William from his native land to his place of splendid
banishment had been firmly united. The aversion which the English
nation felt for them had given him much pain; but he had not been
annoyed by any quarrel among themselves. Zulestein and
Auverquerque had, without a murmur, yielded to Portland the first
place in the royal favour; nor had Portland grudged to Zulestein
and Auverquerque very solid and very signal proofs of their
master's kindness. But a younger rival had lately obtained an
influence which created much jealousy. Among the Dutch gentlemen
who had sailed with the Prince of Orange from Helvoetsluys to
Torbay was one named Arnold Van Keppel. Keppel had a sweet and
obliging temper, winning manners, and a quick, though not a
profound, understanding. Courage, loyalty and secresy were common
between him and Portland. In other points they differed widely.
Portland was naturally the very opposite of a flatterer, and,
having been the intimate friend of the Prince of Orange at a time
when the interval between the House of Orange and the House of
Bentinck was not so wide as it afterwards became, had acquired a
habit of plain speaking which he could not unlearn when the
comrade of his youth had become the sovereign of three kingdoms.
He was a most trusty, but not a very respectful, subject. There
was nothing which he was not ready to do or suffer for William.
But in his intercourse with William he was blunt and sometimes
surly. Keppel, on the other hand, had a great desire to please,
and looked up with unfeigned admiration to a master whom he had
been accustomed, ever since he could remember, to consider as the
first of living men. Arts, therefore, which were neglected by the
elder courtier were assiduously practised by the younger. So
early as the spring of 1691 shrewd observers were struck by the
manner in which Keppel watched every turn of the King's eye, and
anticipated the King's unuttered wishes. Gradually the new
servant rose into favour. He was at length made Earl of Albemarle
and Master of the Robes. But his elevation, though it furnished
the Jacobites with a fresh topic for calumny and ribaldry, was
not so offensive to the nation as the elevation of Portland had
been. Portland's manners were thought dry and haughty; but envy
was disarmed by the blandness of Albemarle's temper and by the
affability of his deportment.

Portland, though strictly honest, was covetous; Albemarle was
generous. Portland had been naturalised here only in name and
form; but Albemarle affected to have forgotten his own country,
and to have become an Englishman in feelings and manners. The
palace was soon disturbed by quarrels in which Portland seems to
have been always the aggressor, and in which he found little
support either among the English or among his own countrymen.
William, indeed, was not the man to discard an old friend for a
new one. He steadily gave, on all occasions, the preference to
the companion of his youthful days. Portland had the first place
in the bed-chamber. He held high command in the army. On all
great occasions he was trusted and consulted. He was far more
powerful in Scotland than the Lord High Commissioner, and far
deeper in the secret of foreign affairs than the Secretary of
State. He wore the Garter, which sovereign princes coveted. Lands
and money had been bestowed on him so liberally that he was one
of the richest subjects in Europe. Albemarle had as yet not even
a regiment; he had not been sworn of the Council; and the wealth
which he owed to the royal bounty was a pittance when compared
with the domains and the hoards of Portland. Yet Portland thought
himself aggrieved. He could not bear to see any other person near
him, though below him, in the royal favour. In his fits of
resentful sullenness, he hinted an intention of retiring from the
Court. William omitted nothing that a brother could have done to
soothe and conciliate a brother. Letters are still extant in
which he, with the utmost solemnity, calls God to witness that
his affection for Bentinck still is what it was in their early
days. At length a compromise was made. Portland, disgusted with
Kensington, was not sorry to go to France as ambassador; and
William with deep emotion consented to a separation longer than
had ever taken place during an intimacy of twenty-five years. A
day or two after the new plenipotentiary had set out on his
mission, he received a touching letter from his master. "The
loss of your society," the King wrote, "has affected me more than
you can imagine. I should be very glad if I could believe that
you felt as much pain at quitting me as I felt at seeing you
depart; for then I might hope that you had ceased to doubt the
truth of what I so solemnly declared to you on my oath. Assure
yourself that I never was more sincere. My feeling towards you is
one which nothing but death can alter." It should seem that the
answer returned to these affectionate assurances was not
perfectly gracious; for, when the King next wrote, he gently
complained of an expression which had wounded him severely.

But, though Portland was an unreasonable and querulous friend, he
was a most faithful and zealous minister. His despatches show how
indefatigably he toiled for the interests, and how punctiliously
he guarded the dignity, of the prince by whom he imagined that he
had been unjustly and unkindly treated.

The embassy was the most magnificent that England had ever sent
to any foreign court. Twelve men of honourable birth and ample
fortune, some of whom afterwards filled high offices in the
State, attended the mission at their own charge. Each of them had
his own carriage, his own horses, and his own train of servants.
Two less wealthy persons, who, in different ways, attained great
note in literature, were of the company. Rapin, whose history of
England might have been found, a century ago, in every library,
was the preceptor of the ambassador's eldest son, Lord Woodstock.
Prior was Secretary of Legation. His quick parts, his industry,
his politeness, and his perfect knowledge of the French language,
marked him out as eminently fitted for diplomatic employment. He
had, however, found much difficulty in overcoming an odd
prejudice which his chief had conceived against him. Portland,
with good natural abilities and great expertness in business, was
no scholar. He had probably never read an English book; but he
had a general notion, unhappily but too well founded, that the
wits and poets who congregated at Will's were a most profane and
licentious set; and, being himself a man of orthodox opinions and
regular life, he was not disposed to give his confidence to one
whom he supposed to be a ribald scoffer. Prior, with much
address, and perhaps with the help of a little hypocrisy,
completely removed this unfavourable impression. He talked on
serious subjects seriously, quoted the New Testament appositely,
vindicated Hammond from the charge of popery, and, by way of a
decisive blow, gave the definition of a true Church from the
nineteenth Article. Portland stared at him. "I am glad, Mr.
Prior, to find you so good a Christian. I was afraid that you
were an atheist." "An atheist, my good lord!" cried Prior. "What
could lead your Lordship to entertain such a suspicion?" "Why,"
said Portland, "I knew that you were a poet; and I took it for
granted that you did not believe in God." "My lord," said the
wit, "you do us poets the greatest injustice. Of all people we
are the farthest from atheism. For the atheists do not even
worship the true God, whom the rest of mankind acknowledge; and
we are always invoking and hymning false gods whom everybody else
has renounced." This jest will be perfectly intelligible to all
who remember the eternally recurring allusions to Venus and
Minerva, Mars, Cupid and Apollo, which were meant to be the
ornaments, and are the blemishers, of Prior's compositions. But
Portland was much puzzled. However, he declared himself
satisfied; and the young diplomatist withdrew, laughing to think
with how little learning a man might shine in courts, lead
armies, negotiate treaties, obtain a coronet and a garter, and
leave a fortune of half a million.

The citizens of Paris and the courtiers of Versailles, though
more accustomed than the Londoners to magnificent pageantry,
allowed that no minister from any foreign state had ever made so
superb an appearance as Portland. His horses, his liveries, his
plate, were unrivalled. His state carriage, drawn by eight fine
Neapolitan greys decorated with orange ribands, was specially
admired. On the day of his public entry the streets, the
balconies, and the windows were crowded with spectators along a
line of three miles. As he passed over the bridge on which the
statue of Henry IV. stands, he was much amused by hearing one of
the crowd exclaim: "Was it not this gentleman's master that we
burned on this very bridge eight years ago?" The Ambassador's
hotel was constantly thronged from morning to night by visitors
in plumes and embroidery. Several tables were sumptuously spread
every day under his roof; and every English traveller of decent
station and character was welcome to dine there. The board at
which the master of the house presided in person, and at which he
entertained his most distinguished guests, was said to be more
luxurious than that of any prince of the House of Bourbon. For
there the most exquisite cookery of France was set off by a
certain neatness and comfort which then, as now, peculiarly
belonged to England. During the banquet the room was filled with
people of fashion, who went to see the grandees eat and drink.
The expense of all this splendour and hospitality was enormous,
and was exaggerated by report. The cost to the English government
really was fifty thousand pounds in five months. It is probable
that the opulent gentlemen who accompanied the mission as
volunteers laid out nearly as much more from their private

The malecontents at the coffeehouses of London murmured at this
profusion, and accused William of ostentation. But, as this fault
was never, on any other occasion, imputed to him even by his
detractors, we may not unreasonably attribute to policy what to
superficial or malicious observers seemed to be vanity. He
probably thought it important, at the commencement of a new era
in the relations between the two great kingdoms of the West, to
hold high the dignity of the Crown which he wore. He well knew,
indeed, that the greatness of a prince does not depend on piles
of silver bowls and chargers, trains of gilded coaches, and
multitudes of running footmen in brocade, and led horses in
velvet housings. But he knew also that the subjects of Lewis had,
during the long reign of their magnificent sovereign, been
accustomed to see power constantly associated with pomp, and
would hardly believe that the substance existed unless they were
dazzled by the trappings.

If the object of William was to strike the imagination of the
French people, he completely succeeded. The stately and gorgeous
appearance which the English embassy made on public occasions
was, during some time, the general topic of conversation at
Paris. Portland enjoyed a popularity which contrasts strangely
with the extreme unpopularity which he had incurred in England.
The contrast will perhaps seem less strange when we consider what
immense sums he had accumulated at the expense of the English,
and what immense sums he was laying out for the benefit of the
French. It must also be remembered that he could not confer or
correspond with Englishmen in their own language, and that the
French tongue was at least as familiar to him, as that of his
native Holland. He, therefore, who here was called greedy,
niggardly, dull, brutal, whom one English nobleman had described
as a block of wood, and another as just capable of carrying a
message right, was in the brilliant circles of France considered
as a model of grace, of dignity and of munificence, as a
dexterous negotiator and a finished gentleman. He was the better
liked because he was a Dutchman. For, though fortune had favoured
William, though considerations of policy had induced the Court of
Versailles to acknowledge him, he was still, in the estimation of
that Court, an usurper; and his English councillors and captains
were perjured traitors who richly deserved axes and halters, and
might, perhaps, get what they deserved. But Bentinck was not to
be confounded with Leeds and Marlborough, Orford and Godolphin.
He had broken no oath, had violated no law. He owed no allegiance
to the House of Stuart; and the fidelity and zeal with which he
had discharged his duties to his own country and his own master
entitled him to respect. The noble and powerful vied with each
other in paying honour to the stranger.

The Ambassador was splendidly entertained by the Duke of Orleans
at St. Cloud, and by the Dauphin at Meudon. A Marshal of France
was charged to do the honours of Marli; and Lewis graciously
expressed his concern that the frosts of an ungenial spring
prevented the fountains and flower beds from appearing to
advantage. On one occasion Portland was distinguished, not only
by being selected to hold the waxlight in the royal bedroom, but
by being invited to go within the balustrade which surrounded the
couch, a magic circle which the most illustrious foreigners had
hitherto found impassable. The Secretary shared largely in the
attentions which were paid to his chief. The Prince of Conde took
pleasure in talking with him on literary subjects. The courtesy
of the aged Bossuet, the glory of the Church of Rome, was long
gratefully remembered by the young heretic. Boileau had the good
sense and good feeling to exchange a friendly greeting with the
aspiring novice who had administered to him a discipline as
severe as he had administered to Quinault. The great King himself
warmly praised Prior's manners and conversation, a circumstance
which will be thought remarkable when it is remembered that His
Majesty was an excellent model and an excellent judge of
gentlemanlike deportment, and that Prior had passed his boyhood
in drawing corks at a tavern, and his early manhood in the
seclusion of a college. The Secretary did not however carry his
politeness so far as to refrain from asserting, on proper
occasions, the dignity of his country and of his master. He
looked coldly on the twenty-one celebrated pictures in which Le
Brun had represented on the coifing of the gallery of Versailles
the exploits of Lewis. When he was sneeringly asked whether
Kensington Palace could boast of such decorations, he answered,
with spirit and propriety: "No, Sir. The memorials of the great
things which my master has done are to be seen in many places;
but not in his own house."

Great as was the success of the embassy, there was one drawback.
James was still at Saint Germains; and round the mock King were
gathered a mock Court and Council, a Great Seal and a Privy Seal,
a crowd of garters and collars, white staves and gold keys.
Against the pleasure which the marked attentions of the French
princes and grandees gave to Portland, was to be set off the
vexation which he felt when Middleton crossed his path with the
busy look of a real Secretary of State. But it was with emotions
far deeper that the Ambassador saw on the terraces and in the
antechambers of Versailles men who had been deeply implicated in
plots against the life of his master. He expressed his
indignation loudly and vehemently. "I hope," he said, "that there
is no design in this; that these wretches are not purposely
thrust in my way. When they come near me all my blood runs back
in my veins." His words were reported to Lewis. Lewis employed
Boufflers to smooth matters; and Boufflers took occasion to say
something on the subject as if from himself. Portland easily
divined that in talking with Boufflers he was really talking with
Lewis, and eagerly seized the opportunity of representing the
expediency, the absolute necessity, of removing James to a
greater distance from England. "It was not contemplated,
Marshal," he said, "when we arranged the terms of peace in
Brabant, that a palace in the suburbs of Paris was to continue to
be an asylum for outlaws and murderers." "Nay, my Lord," said
Boufflers, uneasy doubtless on his own account, "you will not; I
am sure, assert that I gave you any pledge that King James would
be required to leave France. You are too honourable a man, you
are too much my friend, to say any such thing." "It is true,"
answered Portland, "that I did not insist on a positive promise
from you; but remember what passed. I proposed that King James
should retire to Rome or Modena. Then you suggested Avignon; and I
assented. Certainly my regard for you makes me very unwilling to
do anything that would give you pain. But my master's interests
are dearer to me than all the friends that I have in the world
put together. I must tell His Most Christian Majesty all that
passed between us; and I hope that, when I tell him, you will be
present, and that you will be able to bear witness that I have
not put a single word of mine into your mouth."

When Boufflers had argued and expostulated in vain, Villeroy was
sent on the same errand, but had no better success. A few days
later Portland had a long private audience of Lewis. Lewis
declared that he was determined to keep his word, to preserve the
peace of Europe, to abstain from everything which could give just
cause of offence to England, but that, as a man of honour, as a
man of humanity, he could not refuse shelter to an unfortunate
King, his own first cousin. Portland replied that nobody
questioned His Majesty's good faith; but that while Saint
Germains was occupied by its present inmates it would be beyond
even His Majesty's power to prevent eternal plotting between them
and the malecontents on the other side of the Straits of Dover,
and that, while such plotting went on, the peace must necessarily
be insecure. The question was really not one of humanity. It was
not asked, it was not wished, that James should be left
destitute. Nay, the English government was willing to allow him
an income larger than that which he derived from the munificence
of France. Fifty thousand pounds a year, to which in strictness
of law he had no right, awaited his acceptance, if he would only
move to a greater distance from the country which, while he was
near it, could never be at rest. If, in such circumstances, he
refused to move, this was the strongest reason for believing that
he could not safely be suffered to stay. The fact that he thought
the difference between residing at Saint Germains and residing at
Avignon worth more than fifty thousand a year sufficiently proved
that he had not relinquished the hope of being restored to his
throne by means of a rebellion or of something worse. Lewis
answered that on that point his resolution was unalterable. He
never would compel his guest and kinsman to depart. "There is
another matter," said Portland, "about which I have felt it my
duty to make representations. I mean the countenance given to the
assassins." "I know nothing about assassins," said Lewis. "Of
course," answered the Ambassador, "your Majesty knows nothing
about such men. At least your Majesty does not know them for what
they are. But I can point them out, and can furnish ample proofs
of their guilt." He then named Berwick. For the English
Government, which had been willing to make large allowances for
Berwick's peculiar position as long as he confined himself to
acts of open and manly hostility, conceived that he had forfeited
all claim to indulgence by becoming privy to the Assassination
Plot. This man, Portland said, constantly haunted Versailles.
Barclay, whose guilt was of a still deeper dye,--Barclay, the
chief contriver of the murderous ambuscade of Turnham Green,--had
found in France, not only an asylum, but an honourable military
position. The monk who was sometimes called Harrison and
sometimes went by the alias of Johnson, but who, whether Harrison
or Johnson, had been one of the earliest and one of the most
bloodthirsty of Barclays accomplices, was now comfortably settled
as prior of a religious house in France. Lewis denied or evaded
all these charges. "I never," he said, "heard of your Harrison.
As to Barclay, he certainly once had a company; but it has been
disbanded; and what has become of him I do not know. It is true
that Berwick was in London towards the close of 1695; but he was
there only for the purpose of ascertaining whether a descent on
England was practicable; and I am confident that he was no party
to any cruel and dishonourable design." In truth Lewis had a
strong personal motive for defending Berwick. The guilt of
Berwick as respected the Assassination Plot does not appear to
have extended beyond connivance; and to the extent of connivance
Lewis himself was guilty.

Thus the audience terminated. All that was left to Portland was
to announce that the exiles must make their choice between Saint
Germains and fifty thousand a year; that the protocol of Ryswick
bound the English government to pay to Mary of Modena only what
the law gave her; that the law gave her nothing; that
consequently the English government was bound to nothing; and
that, while she, her husband and her child remained where they
were, she should have nothing. It was hoped that this
announcement would produce a considerable effect even in James's
household; and indeed some of his hungry courtiers and priests
seem to have thought the chance of a restoration so small that it
would be absurd to refuse a splendid income, though coupled with
a condition which might make that small chance somewhat smaller.
But it is certain that, if there was murmuring among the
Jacobites, it was disregarded by James. He was fully resolved not
to move, and was only confirmed in his resolution by learning
that he was regarded by the usurper as a dangerous neighbour.
Lewis paid so much regard to Portland's complaints as to intimate
to Middleton a request, equivalent to a command, that the Lords
and gentlemen who formed the retinue of the banished King of
England would not come to Versailles on days on which the
representative of the actual King was expected there. But at
other places there was constant risk of an encounter which might
have produced several duels, if not an European war. James
indeed, far from shunning such encounters, seems to have taken a
perverse pleasure in thwarting his benefactor's wish to keep the
peace, and in placing the Ambassador in embarrassing situations.
One day his Excellency, while drawing on his boots for a run with
the Dauphin's celebrated wolf pack, was informed that King James
meant to be of the party, and was forced to stay at home. Another
day, when his Excellency had set his heart on having some sport
with the royal staghounds, he was informed by the Grand Huntsman
that King James might probably come to the rendezvous without any
notice. Melfort was particularly active in laying traps for the
young noblemen and gentlemen of the Legation. The Prince of Wales
was more than once placed in such a situation that they could
scarcely avoid passing close to him. Were they to salute him?
Were they to stand erect and covered while every body else
saluted him? No Englishman zealous for the Bill of Rights and the
Protestant religion would willingly do any thing which could be
construed into an act of homage to a Popish pretender. Yet no
goodnatured and generous man, however firm in his Whig
principles, would willingly offer any thing which could look like
an affront to an innocent and a most unfortunate child.

Meanwhile other matters of grave importance claimed Portland's
attention. There was one matter in particular about which the
French ministers anxiously expected him to say something, but
about which he observed strict silence. How to interpret that
silence they scarcely knew. They were certain only that it could
not be the effect of unconcern. They were well assured that the
subject which he so carefully avoided was never, during two
waking hours together, out of his thoughts or out of the thoughts
of his master. Nay, there was not in all Christendom a single
politician, from the greatest ministers of state down to the
silliest newsmongers of coffeehouses, who really felt that
indifference which the prudent Ambassador of England affected. A
momentous event, which had during many years been constantly
becoming more and more probable, was now certain and near.
Charles the Second of Spain, the last descendant in the male line
of the Emperor Charles the Fifth, would soon die without
posterity. Who would then be the heir to his many kingdoms,
dukedoms, counties, lordships, acquired in different ways, held
by different titles and subject to different laws? That was a
question about which jurists differed, and which it was not
likely that jurists would, even if they were unanimous, be
suffered to decide. Among the claimants were the mightiest
sovereigns of the continent; there was little chance that they
would submit to any arbitration but that of the sword; and it
could not be hoped that, if they appealed to the sword, other
potentates who had no pretension to any part of the disputed
inheritance would long remain neutral. For there was in Western
Europe no government which did not feel that its own prosperity,
dignity and security might depend on the event of the contest.

It is true that the empire, which had, in the preceding century,
threatened both France and England with subjugation, had of late
been of hardly so much account as the Duchy of Savoy or the
Electorate of Brandenburg. But it by no means followed that the
fate of that empire was matter of indifference to the rest of the
world. The paralytic helplessness and drowsiness of the body once
so formidable could not be imputed to any deficiency of the
natural elements of power. The dominions of the Catholic King
were in extent and in population superior to those of Lewis and
of William united. Spain alone, without a single dependency,
ought to have been a kingdom of the first rank; and Spain was but
the nucleus of the Spanish monarchy. The outlying provinces of
that monarchy in Europe would have sufficed to make three highly
respectable states of the second order. One such state might have
been formed in the Netherlands. It would have been a wide expanse
of cornfield, orchard and meadow, intersected by navigable rivers
and canals. At short intervals, in that thickly peopled and
carefully tilled region, rose stately old towns, encircled by
strong fortifications, embellished by fine cathedrals and senate-
houses, and renowned either as seats of learning or as seats of
mechanical industry. A second flourishing principality might have
been created between the Alps and the Po, out of that well
watered garden of olives and mulberry trees which spreads many
miles on every side of the great white temple of Milan. Yet
neither the Netherlands nor the Milanese could, in physical
advantages, vie with the kingdom of the Two Sicilies, a land
which nature had taken pleasure in enriching and adorning, a land
which would have been paradise, if tyranny and superstition had
not, during many ages, lavished all their noxious influences on
the bay of Campania, the plain of Enna, and the sunny banks of

In America the Spanish territories spread from the Equator
northward and southward through all the signs of the Zodiac far
into the temperate zone. Thence came gold and silver to be coined
in all the mints, and curiously wrought in all the jewellers'
shops, of Europe and Asia. Thence came the finest tobacco, the
finest chocolate, the finest indigo, the finest cochineal, the
hides of innumerable wild oxen, quinquina, coffee, sugar. Either
the viceroyalty of Mexico or the viceroyalty of Peru would, as an
independent state with ports open to all the world, have been an
important member of the great community of nations.

And yet the aggregate, made up of so many parts, each of which
separately might have been powerful and highly considered, was
impotent to a degree which moved at once pity and laughter.
Already one most remarkable experiment had been tried on this
strange empire. A small fragment, hardly a three hundredth part
of the whole in extent, hardly a thirtieth part of the whole in
population, had been detached from the rest, had from that moment
begun to display a new energy and to enjoy a new prosperity, and
was now, after the lapse of a hundred and twenty years, far more
feared and reverenced than the huge mass of which it had once
been an obscure corner. What a contrast between the Holland which
Alva had oppressed and plundered, and the Holland from which
William had sailed to deliver England! And who, with such an
example before him, would venture to foretell what changes might
be at hand, if the most languid and torpid of monarchies should
be dissolved, and if every one of the members which had composed
it should enter on an independent existence?

To such a dissolution that monarchy was peculiarly liable. The
King, and the King alone, held it together. The populations which
acknowledged him as their chief either knew nothing of each
other, or regarded each other with positive aversion. The
Biscayan was in no sense the countryman of the Valencian, nor the
Lombard of the Biscayan, nor the Fleeting of the Lombard, nor the
Sicilian of the Fleeting. The Arragonese had never ceased to pine
for their lost independence. Within the memory of many persons
still living the Catalans had risen in rebellion, had entreated
Lewis the Thirteenth of France to become their ruler with the old
title of Count of Barcelona, and had actually sworn fealty to
him. Before the Catalans had been quieted, the Neapolitans had
taken arms, had abjured their foreign master, had proclaimed
their city a republic, and had elected a Loge. In the New World
the small caste of born Spaniards which had the exclusive
enjoyment of power and dignity was hated by Creoles and Indians,
Mestizos and Quadroons. The Mexicans especially had turned their
eyes on a chief who bore the name and had inherited the blood of
the unhappy Montezuma. Thus it seemed that the empire against
which Elizabeth and Henry the Fourth had been scarcely able to
contend would not improbably fall to pieces of itself, and that
the first violent shock from without would scatter the ill-
cemented parts of the huge fabric in all directions.

But, though such a dissolution had no terrors for the Catalonian
or the Fleming, for the Lombard or the Calabrian, for the Mexican
or the Peruvian, the thought of it was torture and madness to the
Castilian. Castile enjoyed the supremacy in that great assemblage
of races and languages. Castile sent out governors to Brussels,
Milan, Naples, Mexico, Lima. To Castile came the annual galleons
laden with the treasures of America. In Castile was
ostentatiously displayed and lavishly spent great fortunes made
in remote provinces by oppression and corruption. In Castile were
the King and his Court. There stood the stately Escurial, once
the centre of the politics of the world, the place to which
distant potentates looked, some with hope and gratitude, some
with dread and hatred, but none without anxiety and awe. The
glory of the house had indeed departed. It was long since
couriers bearing orders big with the fate of kings and
commonwealths had ridden forth from those gloomy portals.
Military renown, maritime ascendency, the policy once reputed so
profound, the wealth once deemed inexhaustible, had passed away.
An undisciplined army, a rotting fleet, an incapable council, an
empty treasury, were all that remained of that which had been so
great. Yet the proudest of nations could not bear to part even
with the name and the shadow of a supremacy which was no more.
All, from the grandee of the first class to the peasant, looked
forward with dread to the day when God should be pleased to take
their king to himself. Some of them might have a predilection for
Germany; but such predilections were subordinate to a stronger
feeling. The paramount object was the integrity of the empire of
which Castile was the head; and the prince who should appear to
be most likely to preserve that integrity unviolated would have
the best right to the allegiance of every true Castilian.

No man of sense, however, out of Castile, when he considered the
nature of the inheritance and the situation of the claimants,
could doubt that a partition was inevitable. Among those
claimants three stood preeminent, the Dauphin, the Emperor
Leopold, and the Electoral Prince of Bavaria.

If the question had been simply one of pedigree, the right of the
Dauphin would have been incontestable. Lewis the Fourteeenth had
married the Infanta Maria Theresa, eldest daughter of Philip the
Fourth and sister of Charles the Second. Her eldest son, the
Dauphin, would therefore, in the regular course of things, have
been her brother's successor. But she had, at the time of her
marriage, renounced, for herself and her posterity, all
pretensions to the Spanish crown.

To that renunciation her husband had assented. It had been made
an article of the Treaty of the Pyrenees. The Pope had been
requested to give his apostolical sanction to an arrangement so
important to the peace of Europe; and Lewis had sworn, by every
thing that could bind a gentleman, a king, and a Christian, by
his honour, by his royal word, by the canon of the Mass, by the
Holy Gospels, by the Cross of Christ, that he would hold the
renunciation sacred.11

The claim of the Emperor was derived from his mother Mary Anne,
daughter of Philip the Third, and aunt of Charles the Second, and
could not therefore, if nearness of blood alone were to be
regarded, come into competition with the claim of the Dauphin.
But the claim of the Emperor was barred by no renunciation. The
rival pretensions of the great Houses of Bourbon and Habsburg
furnished all Europe with an inexhaustible subject of discussion.
Plausible topics were not wanting to the supporters of either
cause. The partisans of the House of Austria dwelt on the
sacredness of treaties; the partisans of France on the sacredness
of birthright. How, it was asked on one side, can a Christian
king have the effrontery, the impiety, to insist on a claim which
he has with such solemnity renounced in the face of heaven and
earth? How, it was asked on the other side, can the fundamental
laws of a monarchy be annulled by any authority but that of the
supreme legislature? The only body which was competent to take
away from the children of Maria Theresa their hereditary rights
was the Comes. The Comes had not ratified her renunciation. That
renunciation was therefore a nullity; and no swearing, no
signing, no sealing, could turn that nullity into a reality.

Which of these two mighty competitors had the better case may
perhaps be doubted. What could not be doubted was that neither
would obtain the prize without a struggle which would shake the
world. Nor can we justly blame either for refusing to give way to
the other. For, on this occasion, the chief motive which actuated
them was, not greediness, but the fear of degradation and ruin.
Lewis, in resolving to put every thing to hazard rather than
suffer the power of the House of Austria to be doubled; Leopold,
in determining to put every thing to hazard rather than suffer
the power of the House of Bourbon to be doubled; merely obeyed
the law of self preservation. There was therefore one way, and
one alone, by which the great woe which seemed to be coming on
Europe could be averted. Was it possible that the dispute might
be compromised? Might not the two great rivals be induced to make
to a third party concessions such as neither could reasonably be
expected to make to the other?

The third party, to whom all who were anxious for the peace of
Christendom looked as their best hope, was a child of tender age,
Joseph, son of the Elector of Bavaria. His mother, the Electress
Mary Antoinette, was the only child of the Emperor Leopold by his
first wife Margaret, a younger sister of the Queen of Lewis the
Fourteenth. Prince Joseph was, therefore, nearer in blood to the
Spanish throne than his grandfather the Emperor, or than the sons
whom the Emperor had by his second wife. The Infanta Margaret had
indeed, at the time of her marriage, renounced her rights to the
kingdom of her forefathers. But the renunciation wanted many
formalities which had been observed in her sister's case, and
might be considered as cancelled by the will of Philip the
Fourth, which had declared that, failing his issue male, Margaret
and her posterity would be entitled to inherit his Crown. The
partisans of France held that the Bavarian claim was better than
the Austrian claim; the partisans of Austria held that the
Bavarian claim was better than the French claim. But that which
really constituted the strength of the Bavarian claim was the
weakness of the Bavarian government. The Electoral Prince was the
only candidate whose success would alarm nobody; would not make
it necessary for any power to raise another regiment, to man
another frigate, to have in store another barrel of gunpowder. He
was therefore the favourite candidate of prudent and peaceable
men in every country.

Thus all Europe was divided into the French, the Austrian, and
the Bavarian factions. The contests of these factions were daily
renewed in every place where men congregated, from Stockholm to
Malta, and from Lisbon to Smyrna. But the fiercest and most
obstinate conflict was that which raged in the palace of the
Catholic King. Much depended on him. For, though it was not
pretended that he was competent to alter by his sole authority
the law which regulated the descent of the Crown, yet, in a case
in which the law was doubtful, it was probable that his subjects
might be disposed to accept the construction which he might put
upon it, and to support the claimant whom be might, either by a
solemn adoption or by will, designate as the rightful heir. It
was also in the power of the reigning sovereign to entrust all
the most important offices in his kingdom, the government of all
the provinces subject to him in the Old and in the New World, and
the keys of all his fortresses and arsenals, to persons zealous
for the family which he was inclined to favour. It was difficult
to say to what extent the fate of whole nations might be affected
by the conduct of the officers who, at the time of his decease,
might command the garrisons of Barcelona, of Mons, and of Namur.

The prince on whom so much depended was the most miserable of
human beings. In old times he would have been exposed as soon as
he came into the world; and to expose him would have been a
kindness. From his birth a blight was on his body and on his
mind. With difficulty his almost imperceptible spark of life had
been screened and fanned into a dim and flickering flame. His
childhood, except when he could be rocked and sung into sickly
sleep, was one long piteous wail. Until he was ten years old his
days were passed on the laps of women; and he has never once
suffered to stand on his ricketty legs. None of those tawny
little urchins, clad in rags stolen from scarecrows, whom Murillo
loved to paint begging or rolling in the sand, owed less to
education than this despotic ruler of thirty millions of
subjects, The most important events in the history of his own
kingdom, the very names of provinces and cities which were among
his most valuable possessions, were unknown to him. It may well
be doubted whether he was aware that Sicily was an island, that
Christopher Columbus had discovered America, or that the English
were not Mahometans. In his youth, however, though too imbecile
for study or for business, he was not incapable of being amused.
He shot, hawked and hunted. He enjoyed with the delight of a true
Spaniard two delightful spectacles, a horse with its bowels gored
out, and a Jew writhing in the fire. The time came when the
mightiest of instincts ordinarily wakens from its repose. It was
hoped that the young King would not prove invincible to female
attractions, and that he would leave a Prince of Asturias to
succeed him. A consort was found for him in the royal family of
France; and her beauty and grace gave him a languid pleasure. He
liked to adorn her with jewels, to see her dance, and to tell her
what sport he had had with his dogs and his falcons. But it was
soon whispered that she was a wife only in name. She died; and
her place was supplied by a German princess nearly allied to the
Imperial House. But the second marriage, like the first, proved
barren; and, long before the King had passed the prime of life,
all the politicians of Europe had begun to take it for granted in
all their calculations that he would be the last descendant, in
the male line, of Charles the Fifth. Meanwhile a sullen and
abject melancholy took possession of his soul. The diversions
which had been the serious employment of his youth became
distasteful to him. He ceased to find pleasure in his nets and
boar spears, in the fandango and the bullfight. Sometimes he shut
himself up in an inner chamber from the eyes of his courtiers.
Sometimes he loitered alone, from sunrise to sunset, in the
dreary and rugged wilderness which surrounds the Escurial. The
hours which he did not waste in listless indolence were divided
between childish sports and childish devotions. He delighted in
rare animals, and still more in dwarfs. When neither strange
beasts nor little men could dispel the black thoughts which
gathered in his mind, he repeated Aves and Credos; he walked in
processions; sometimes he starved himself; sometimes he whipped
himself. At length a complication of maladies completed the ruin
of all his faculties. His stomach failed; nor was this strange;
for in him the malformation of the jaw, characteristic of his
family, was so serious that he could not masticate his food; and
he was in the habit of swallowing ollas and sweetmeats in the
state in which they were set before him. While suffering from
indigestion he was attacked by ague. Every third day his
convulsive tremblings, his dejection, his fits of wandering,
seemed to indicate the approach of dissolution. His misery was
increased by the knowledge that every body was calculating how
long he had to live, and wondering what would become of his
kingdoms when he should be dead. The stately dignitaries of his
household, the physicians who ministered to his diseased body,
the divines whose business was to soothe his not less diseased
mind, the very wife who should have been intent on those gentle
offices by which female tenderness can alleviate even the misery
of hopeless decay, were all thinking of the new world which was
to commence with his death, and would have been perfectly willing
to see him in the hands of the embalmer if they could have been
certain that his successor would be the prince whose interest
they espoused. As yet the party of the Emperor seemed to
predominate. Charles had a faint sort of preference for the House
of Austria, which was his own house, and a faint sort of
antipathy to the House of Bourbon, with which he had been
quarrelling, he did not well know why, ever since he could
remember. His Queen, whom he did not love, but of whom he stood
greatly in awe, was devoted to the interests of her kinsman the
Emperor; and with her was closely leagued the Count of Melgar,
Hereditary Admiral of Castile and Prime Minister.

Such was the state of the question of the Spanish succession at
the time when Portland had his first public audience at
Versailles. The French ministers were certain that he must be
constantly thinking about that question, and were therefore
perplexed by his evident determination to say nothing about it.
They watched his lips in the hope that he would at least let fall
some unguarded word indicating the hopes or fears entertained by
the English and Dutch Governments. But Portland was not a man out
of whom much was to be got in that way. Nature and habit
cooperating had made him the best keeper of secrets in Europe.
Lewis therefore directed Pomponne and Torcy, two ministers of
eminent ability, who had, under himself, the chief direction of
foreign affairs, to introduce the subject which the discreet
confidant of William seemed studiously to avoid. Pomponne and
Torcy accordingly repaired to the English embassy; and there
opened one of the most remarkable negotiations recorded in the
annals of European diplomacy.

The two French statesmen professed in their master's name the
most earnest desire, not only that the peace might remain
unbroken, but that there might be a close union between the
Courts of Versailles and Kensington. One event only seemed likely
to raise new troubles. If the Catholic King should die before it
had been settled who should succeed to his immense dominions,
there was but too much reason to fear that the nations, which
were just beginning to breathe after an exhausting and
devastating struggle of nine years, would be again in arms. His
Most Christian Majesty was therefore desirous to employ the short
interval which might remain, in concerting with the King of
England the means of preserving the tranquillity of the world.

Portland made a courteous but guarded answer. He could not, he
said, presume to say exactly what William's sentiments were; but
this he knew, that it was not solely or chiefly by the sentiments
of the King of England that the policy of England on a great
occasion would be regulated. The islanders must and would have
their government administered according to certain maxims which
they held sacred; and of those maxims they held none more sacred
than this, that every increase of the power of France ought to be
viewed with extreme jealousy.

Pomponne and Torcy answered that their master was most desirous
to avoid every thing which could excite the jealousy of which
Portland had spoken. But was it of France alone that a nation so
enlightened as the English must be jealous? Was it forgotten that
the House of Austria had once aspired to universal dominion? And
would it be wise in the princes and commonwealths of Europe to
lend their aid for the purpose of reconstructing the gigantic
monarchy which, in the sixteenth century, had seemed likely to
overwhelm them all?

Portland answered that, on this subject, he must be understood to
express only the opinions of a private man. He had however now
lived, during some years, among the English, and believed himself
to be pretty well acquainted with their temper. They would not,
he thought, be much alarmed by any augmentation of power which
the Emperor might obtain. The sea was their element. Traffic by
sea was the great source of their wealth; ascendency on the sea
the great object of their ambition. Of the Emperor they had no
fear. Extensive as was the area which he governed, he had not a
frigate on the water; and they cared nothing for his Pandours and
Croatians. But France had a great navy. The balance of maritime
power was what would be anxiously watched in London; and the
balance of maritime power would not be affected by an union
between Spain and Austria, but would be most seriously deranged
by an union between Spain and France.

Pomponne and Torcy declared that every thing should be done to
quiet the apprehensions which Portland had described. It was not
contemplated, it was not wished, that France and Spain should be
united. The Dauphin and his eldest son the Duke of Burgundy would
waive their rights. The younger brothers of the Duke of Burgundy,
Philip Duke of Anjou and Charles Duke of Berry, were not named;
but Portland perfectly understood what was meant. There would, he
said, be scarcely less alarm in England if the Spanish dominions
devolved on a grandson of His Most Christian Majesty than if they
were annexed to the French crown. The laudable affection of the
young princes for their country and their family, and their
profound respect for the great monarch from whom they were
descended, would inevitably determine their policy. The two
kingdoms would be one; the two navies would be one; and all other
states would be reduced to vassalage. England would rather see
the Spanish monarchy added to the Emperor's dominions than
governed by one of the younger French princes, who would, though
nominally independent, be really a viceroy of France. But in
truth there was no risk that the Spanish monarchy would be added
to the Emperor's dominions. He and his eldest son the Archduke
Joseph would, no doubt, be as ready to waive their rights as the
Dauphin and the Duke of Burgundy could be; and thus the Austrian
claim to the disputed heritage would pass to the younger Archduke
Charles. A long discussion followed. At length Portland plainly
avowed, always merely as his own private opinion, what was the
opinion of every intelligent man who wished to preserve the peace
of the world. "France is afraid," he said, "of every thing which
can increase the power of the Emperor. All Europe is afraid of
every thing which can increase the power of France. Why not put
an end to all these uneasy feelings at once, by agreeing to place
the Electoral Prince of Bavaria on the throne of Spain?" To this
suggestion no decisive answer was returned. The conference ended;
and a courier started for England with a despatch informing
William of what had passed, and soliciting further instructions.

William, who was, as he had always been, his own Secretary for
Foreign Affairs, did not think it necessary to discuss the
contents of this despatch with any of his English ministers. The
only person whom he consulted was Heinsius. Portland received a
kind letter warmly approving all that he had said in the
conference, and directing him to declare that the English
government sincerely wished to avert the calamities which were
but too likely to follow the death of the King of Spain, and
would therefore be prepared to take into serious consideration
any definite plan which His Most Christian Majesty might think
fit to suggest. "I will own to you," William wrote to his friend,
"that I am so unwilling to be again at war during the short time
which I still have to live, that I will omit nothing that I can
honestly and with a safe conscience do for the purpose of
maintaining peace."

William's message was delivered by Portland to Lewis at a private
audience. In a few days Pomponne and Torcy were authorised to
propose a plan. They fully admitted that all neighbouring states
were entitled to demand the strongest security against the union
of the French and Spanish crowns. Such security should be given.
The Spanish government might be requested to choose between the
Duke of Anjou and the Duke of Berry. The youth who was selected
would, at the utmost, be only fifteen years old, and could not be
supposed to have any very deeply rooted national prejudices. He
should be sent to Madrid without French attendants, should be
educated by Spaniards, should become a Spaniard. It was absurd to
imagine that such a prince would be a mere viceroy of France.
Apprehensions had been sometimes hinted that a Bourbon, seated on
the throne of Spain, might cede his dominions in the Netherlands
to the head of his family. It was undoubtedly important to
England, and all important to Holland, that those provinces
should not become a part of the French monarchy. All danger might
be averted by making them over to the Elector of Bavaria, who was
now governing them as representative of the Catholic King. The
Dauphin would be perfectly willing to renounce them for himself
and for all his descendants. As to what concerned trade, England
and Holland had only to say what they desired, and every thing in
reason should be done to give them satisfaction.

As this plan was, in the main, the same which had been suggested
by the French ministers in the former conference, Portland did
little more than repeat what he had then said. As to the new
scheme respecting the Netherlands, he shrewdly propounded a
dilemma which silenced Pomponne and Torcy.

If renunciations were of any value, the Dauphin and his posterity
were excluded from the Spanish succession; and, if renunciations
were of no value, it was idle to offer England and Holland a
renunciation as a guarantee against a great danger.

The French Ministers withdrew to make their report to their
master, and soon returned to say that their proposals had been
merely first thoughts, that it was now the turn of King William
to suggest something, and that whatever he might suggest should
receive the fullest and fairest consideration.

And now the scene of the negotiation was shifted from Versailles
to Kensington. The Count of Tallard had just set out for England
as Ambassador. He was a fine gentleman; he was a brave soldier;
and he was as yet reputed a skilful general. In all the arts and
graces which were priced as qualifications for diplomatic
missions of the highest class, he had, among the brilliant
aristocracy to which he belonged, no superior and only one equal,
the Marquess of Harcourt, who was entrusted with the care of the
interests of the House of Bourbon at Madrid.

Tallard carried with him instructions carefully framed in the
French Foreign Office. He was reminded that his situation would
be widely different from that of his predecessors who had resided
in England before the Revolution. Even his predecessors, however,
had considered it as their duty to study the temper, not only of
the Court, but of the nation. It would now be more than ever
necessary to watch the movements of the public mind. A man of
note was not to be slighted merely because he was out of place.
Such a man, with a great name in the country and a strong
following in Parliament, might exercise as much influence on the
politics of England, and consequently of Europe, as any minister.
The Ambassador must therefore try to be on good terms with those
who were out as well as with those who were in. To this rule,
however, there was one exception which he must constantly bear in
mind. With nonjurors and persons suspected of plotting against
the existing government he must not appear to have any
connection. They must not be admitted into his house. The English
people evidently wished to be at rest, and had given the best
proof of their pacific disposition by insisting on the reduction
of the army. The sure way to stir up jealousies and animosities
which were just sinking to sleep would be to make the French
embassy the head quarters of the Jacobite party. It would be wise
in Tallard to say and to charge his agents to say, on all fit
occasions, and particularly in societies where members of
Parliament might be present, that the Most Christian King had
never been an enemy of the liberties of England. His Majesty had
indeed hoped that it might be in his power to restore his cousin,
but not without the assent of the nation. In the original draft
of the instructions was a curious paragraph which, on second
thoughts, it was determined to omit. The Ambassador was directed
to take proper opportunities of cautioning the English against a
standing army, as the only thing which could really be fatal to
their laws and liberties. This passage was suppressed, no doubt,
because it occurred to Pomponne and Torcy that, with whatever
approbation the English might listen to such language when
uttered by a demagogue of their own race, they might be very
differently affected by hearing it from a French diplomatist, and
might think that there could not be a better reason for arming,
than that Lewis and his emissaries earnestly wished them to

Tallard was instructed to gain, if possible, some members of the
House of Commons. Every thing, he was told, was now subjected to
the scrutiny of that assembly; accounts of the public income, of
the public expenditure, of the army, of the navy, were regularly
laid on the table; and it would not be difficult to find persons
who would supply the French legation with copious information on
all these subjects.

The question of the Spanish succession was to be mentioned to
William at a private audience. Tallard was fully informed of all
that had passed in the conferences which the French ministers had
held with Portland; and was furnished with all the arguments that
the ingenuity of publicists could devise in favour of the claim
of the Dauphin.

The French embassy made as magnificent an appearance m England as
the English embassy had made in France. The mansion of the Duke
of Ormond, one of the finest houses in Saint James's Square, was
taken for Tallard. On the day of the public entry, all the
streets from Tower Hill to Pall Mall were crowded with gazers who
admired the painting and gilding of his Excellency's carriages,
the surpassing beauty of his horses, and the multitude of his
running footmen, dressed in gorgeous liveries of scarlet and gold
lace. The Ambassador was graciously received at Kensington, and
was invited to accompany William to Newmarket, where the largest
and most splendid Spring Meeting ever known was about to
assemble. The attraction must be supposed to have been great; for
the risks of the journey were not trifling. The peace had, all
over Europe, and nowhere more than in England, turned crowds of
old soldiers into marauders.12 Several aristocratical equipages
had been attacked even in Hyde Park. Every newspaper contained
stories of travellers stripped, bound and flung into ditches. One
day the Bristol mail was robbed; another day the Dover coach;
then the Norwich waggon. On Hounslow Heath a company of horsemen,
with masks on their faces, waited for the great people who had
been to pay their court to the King at Windsor. Lord Ossulston
escaped with the loss of two horses. The Duke of Saint Albans,
with the help of his servants, beat off the assailants. His
brother the Duke of Northumberland, less strongly guarded, fell
into their hands. They succeeded in stopping thirty or forty
coaches, and rode off with a great booty in guineas, watches and
jewellery. Nowhere, however, does the peal seem to have been so
great as on the Newmarket road. There indeed robbery was
organised on a scale unparalleled in the kingdom since the days
of Robin Hood and Little John. A fraternity of plunderers, thirty
in number according to the lowest estimate, squatted, near
Waltham Cross, under the shades of Epping Forest, and built
themselves huts, from which they sallied forth with sword and
pistol to bid passengers stand. The King and Tallard were
doubtless too well attended to be in jeopardy. But, soon after
they had passed the dangerous spot, there was a fight on the
highway attended with loss of life. A warrant of the Lord Chief
justice broke up the Maroon village for a short time,
but the dispersed thieves soon mustered again, and had the
impudence to bid defiance to the government in a cartel signed,
it was said, with their real names. The civil power was unable to
deal with this frightful evil. It was necessary that, during some
time, cavalry should patrol every evening on the roads near the
boundary between Middlesex and Essex.

The state of those roads, however, though contemporaries
described it as dangerous beyond all example, did not deter men
of rank and fashion from making the joyous pilgrimages to
Newmarket. Half the Dukes in the kingdom were there. Most of the
chief ministers of state swelled the crowd; nor was the
opposition unrepresented. Montague stole two or three days from
the Treasury, and Orford from the Admiralty. Godolphin was there,
looking after his horses and his bets, and probably went away a
richer man than he came. But racing was only one of the many
amusements of that festive season. On fine mornings there was
hunting. For those who preferred hawking choice falcons had been
brought from Holland. On rainy days the cockpit was encircled by
stars and blue ribands. On Sundays William went to church in
state, and the most eminent divines of the neighbouring
University of Cambridge preached before him. He omitted no
opportunity of showing marked civility to Tallard. The Ambassador
informed his Court that his place at table was next to the royal
arm chair, and that his health had been most graciously drunk by
the King.

All this time, both at Kensington and Newmarket, the Spanish
question was the subject of constant and earnest discussion. To
trace all the windings of the negotiation would be tedious. The
general course which it took may easily be described. The object
of William was to place the Electoral Prince of Bavaria on the
Spanish throne. To obtain the consent of Lewis to such an
arrangement seemed all but impossible; but William manoeuvred
with rare skill. Though he frankly acknowledged that he preferred
the Electoral Prince to any other candidate, he professed.
himself desirous to meet, as far as he honourably or safely
could, the wishes of the French King. There were conditions on
which England and Holland might perhaps consent, though not
without reluctance, that a son of the Dauphin should reign at
Madrid, and should be master of the treasures of the New World.
Those conditions were that the Milanese and the Two Sicilies
should belong to the Archduke Charles, that the Elector of
Bavaria should have the Spanish Netherlands, that Lewis should
give up some fortified towns in Artois for the purpose of
strengthening the barrier which protected the United Provinces,
and that some important places both in the Mediterranean sea and
in the Gulf of Mexico should be made over to the English and
Dutch for the security of trade. Minorca and Havanna were
mentioned as what might satisfy England.

Against these terms Lewis exclaimed loudly. Nobody, he said, who
knew with how sensitive a jealousy the Spaniards watched every
encroachment on their colonial empire would believe that they
would ever consent to give up any part of that empire either to
England or to Holland. The demand which was made upon himself was
altogether inadmissible. A barrier was not less necessary to
France than to Holland; and he never would break the iron chain
of frontier fastnesses which was the defence of his own kingdom,
even in order to purchase another kingdom for his grandson. On
that subject he begged that he might hear no more. The
proposition was one which he would not discuss, one to which he
would not listen.

As William, however, resolutely maintained that the terms which
he had offered, hard as they might seem, were the only terms on
which England and Holland could suffer a Bourbon to reign at
Madrid, Lewis began seriously to consider, whether it might not
be on the whole for his interest and that of his family rather to
sell the Spanish crown dear than to buy it dear. He therefore now
offered to withdraw his opposition to the Bavarian claim,
provided a portion of the disputed inheritance were assigned to
him in consideration of his disinterestedness and moderation.
William was perfectly willing and even eager to treat on this
basis. The first demands of Lewis were, as might have been
expected, exorbitantly high. He asked for the kingdom of Navarre,
which would have made him little less than master of the whole
Iberian peninsula, and for the duchy of Luxemburg, which would
have made him more dangerous than ever to the United Provinces.
On both points he encountered a steady resistance. The impression
which, throughout these transactions, the firmness and good faith
of William made on Tallard is remarkable. At first the dexterous
and keen witted Frenchman was all suspicion. He imagined that
there was an evasion in every phrase, a hidden snare in every
offer. But after a time he began to discover that he had to do
with a man far too wise to be false. "The King of England," he
wrote, and it is impossible to doubt that he wrote what he
thought, "acts with good faith in every thing. His way of dealing
is upright and sincere."13 "The King of England," he wrote a few
days later, "has hitherto acted with great sincerity; and I
venture to say that, if he once enters into a treaty, he will
steadily adhere to it." But in the same letter the Ambassador
thought it necessary to hint to his master that the diplomatic
chicanery which might be useful in other negotiations would be
all thrown away here. "I must venture to observe to Your Majesty
that the King of England is very sharpsighted, that his judgment
is sound, and that, if we try to spin the negotiation out, he
will very soon perceive that we are trifling with him."14

During some time projects and counterprojects continued to pass
and repass between Kensington and Versailles. Something was
conceded on both sides; and when the session of Parliament ended
there seemed to be fair hopes of a settlement. And now the scene
of the negotiation was again changed. Having been shifted from
France to England, it was shifted from England to Holland. As
soon as William had prorogued the Houses, he was impatient to be
again in his native land. He felt all the glee of a schoolboy who
is leaving harsh masters and quarrelsome comrades to pass the
Christmas holidays at a happy home. That stern and composed face
which had been the same in the pursuit at the Boyne and in the
rout at Landen, and of which the keenest politicians had in vain
tried to read the secrets, now wore an expression but too
intelligible. The English were not a little provoked by seeing
their King so happy. Hitherto his annual visits to the Continent
had been not only pardoned but approved. It was necessary that he
should be at the head of his army. If he had left his people, it
had been in order to put his life in jeopardy for their
independence, their liberty, and their religion. But they had
hoped that, when peace had been restored, when no call of duty
required him to cross the sea, he would generally, during the
summer and autumn, reside in his fair palaces and parks on the
banks of the Thames, or travel from country seat to country seat,
and from cathedral town to cathedral town, making himself
acquainted with every shire of his realm, and giving his hand to
be kissed by multitudes of squires, clergymen and aldermen who
were not likely ever to see him unless he came among them. It now
appeared that he was sick of the noble residences which had
descended to him from ancient princes; that he was sick even of
those mansions which the liberality of Parliament had enabled him
to build and embellish according to his own taste; that he was
sick of Windsor, of Richmond, and of Hampton; that he promised
himself no enjoyment from a progress through those flourishing
and populous counties which he had never seen, Yorkshire and
Norfolk, Cheshire, Shropshire and Worcestershire. While he was
forced to be with us, he was weary of us, pining for his home,
counting the hours to the prorogation. As soon as the passing of
the last bill of supply had set him at liberty, he turned his
back on his English subjects; he hastened to his seat in
Guelders, where, during some months, he might be free from the
annoyance of seeing English faces and hearing English words; and
he would with difficulty tear himself away from his favourite
spot when it became absolutely necessary that he should again ask
for English money.

Thus his subjects murmured; but, in spite of their murmurs, he
set off in high spirits. It had been arranged that Tallard should
speedily follow him, and that the discussion in which they had
been engaged at Kensington should be resumed at Loo.

Heinsius, whose cooperation was indispensable, would be there.
Portland too would lend his assistance. He had just returned. He
had always considered his mission as an extraordinary mission, of
which the object was to put the relations between the two great
Western powers on a proper footing after a long series of years
during which England had been sometimes the enemy, but never the
equal friend, of France. His task had been well performed; and he
now came back, leaving behind him the reputation of an excellent
minister, firm yet cautious as to substance, dignified yet
conciliating in manner. His last audience at Versailles was
unusually long; and no third person was present. Nothing could be
more gracious than the language and demeanour of Lewis. He
condescended to trace a route for the embassy, and insisted that
Portland should make a circuit for the purpose of inspecting some
of the superb fortresses of the French Netherlands. At every one
of those fortresses the governors and engineers had orders to pay
every attention to the distinguished stranger. Salutes were
everywhere fired to welcome him. A guard of honour was everywhere
in attendance on him. He stopped during three days at Chantilly,
and was entertained there by the Prince of Condé with all that
taste and magnificence for which Chantilly had long been
renowned. There were boar hunts in the morning and concerts in
the evening. Every gentleman of the legation had a gamekeeper
specially assigned to him. The guests, who, in their own island
were accustomed to give extravagant vails at every country house
which they visited, learned, with admiration, that His Highness's
servants were strictly forbidden to receive presents. At his
luxurious table, by a refinement of politeness, choice cider from
the orchards round the Malvern Hills made its appearance in
company with the Champagne and the Burgundy.

Portland was welcomed by his master with all the kindness of old
times. But that kindness availed nothing. For Albemarle was still
in the royal household, and appeared to have been, during the
last few months, making progress in the royal favour. Portland
was angry, and the more angry because he could not but perceive
that his enemies enjoyed his anger, and that even his friends
generally thought it unreasonable; nor did he take any pains to
conceal his vexation. But he was the very opposite of the vulgar
crowd of courtiers who fawn on a master while they betray him. He
neither disguised his ill humour, nor suffered it to interfere
with the discharge of his duties. He gave his prince sullen
looks, short answers, and faithful and strenuous services. His
first wish, he said, was to retire altogether from public life.
But he was sensible that, having borne a chief part in the
negotiation on which the fate of Europe depended, he might be of
use at Loo; and, with devoted loyalty, though with a sore heart
and a gloomy brow, he prepared to attend William thither.

Before the King departed he delegated his power to nine Lords
Justices. The public was well pleased to find that Sunderland was
not among them. Two new names appeared in the list. That of
Montague could excite no surprise. But that of Marlborough
awakened many recollections and gave occasion to many
speculations. He had once enjoyed a large measure of royal
favour. He had then been dismissed, disgraced, imprisoned. The
Princess Anne, for refusing to discard his wife, had been turned
out of the palace, and deprived of the honours which had often
been enjoyed by persons less near to the throne. Ministers who
were supposed to have great influence in the closet had vainly
tried to overcome the dislike with which their master regarded
the Churchills. It was not till he had been some time reconciled
to his sister in law that he ceased to regard her two favourite
servants as his enemies. So late as the year 1696 he had been
heard to say, "If I had been a private gentleman, my Lord
Marlborough and I must have measured swords." All these things
were now, it seemed, forgotten. The Duke of Gloucester's
household had just been arranged. As he was not yet nine years
old, and the civil list was burdened with a heavy debt, fifteen
thousand pounds was thought for the present a sufficient
provision. The child's literary education was directed by
Burnet, with the title of Preceptor. Marlborough was appointed
Governor; and the London Gazette announced his appointment, not
with official dryness, but in the fervid language of panegyric.
He was at the same time again sworn a member of the Privy Council
from which he had been expelled with ignominy; and he was
honoured a few days later with a still higher mark of the King's
confidence, a seat at the board of Regency.

Some persons imagined that they saw in this strange
reconciliation a sign that the influence of Portland was on the
wane and that the influence of Albemarle was growing. For
Marlborough had been many years at feud with Portland, and had
even--a rare event indeed--been so much irritated as to speak of
Portland in coarse and ungentlemanlike terms. With Albemarle, on
the other hand, Marlborough had studiously ingratiated himself by
all the arts which a mind singularly observant and sagacious
could learn from a long experience in courts; and it is possible
that Albemarle may have removed some difficulties. It is hardly
necessary, however, to resort to that supposition for the purpose
of explaining why so wise a man as William forced himself, after
some delay caused by very just and natural resentment, to act
wisely. His opinion of Marlborough's character was probably
unaltered. But he could not help perceiving that Marlborough's
situation was widely different from what it had been a few years
before. That very ambition, that very avarice, which had, in
former times, impelled him to betray two masters, were now
sufficient securities for his fidelity to the order of things
which had been established by the Bill of Rights. If that order
of things could be maintained inviolate, he could scarcely fail
to be, in a few years, the greatest and wealthiest subject in
Europe. His military and political talents might therefore now be
used without any apprehension that they would be turned against
the government which used them. It is to be remembered too that
he derived his importance less from his military and political
talents, great as they were, than from the dominion which,
through the instrumentality of his wife, he exercised over the
mind of the Princess. While he was on good terms with the Court
it was certain that she would lend no countenance to any cabal
which might attack either the title or the prerogatives of her
brother in law. Confident that from this quarter, a quarter once
the darkest and most stormy in the whole political horizon,
nothing but sunshine and calm was now to be expected, William set
out cheerfully on his expedition to his native country.


Altered Position of the Ministry--The Elections--First Partition
Treaty--Domestic Discontent--Littleton chosen Speaker--King's
Speech; Proceedings relating to the Amount of the Land Force--
Unpopularity of Montague--Bill for Disbanding the Army--The
King's Speech--Death of the Electoral Prince of Bavaria.--Renewed
Discussion of the Army Question--Naval Administration--Commission
on Irish Forfeitures.--Prorogation of Parliament--Changes in the
Ministry and Household--Spanish Succession--Darien

THE Gazette which informed the public that the King had set out
for Holland announced also the names of the first members
returned, in obedience to his writ, by the constituent bodies of
the Realm. The history of those times has been so little studied
that few persons are aware how remarkable an epoch the general
election of 1698 is in the history of the English Constitution.

We have seen that the extreme inconvenience which had resulted
from the capricious and headstrong conduct of the House of
Commons during the years immediately following the Revolution had
forced William to resort to a political
machinery which had been unknown to his predecessors, and of
which the nature and operation were but very imperfectly
understood by himself or by his ablest advisers. For the first
time the administration was confided to a small body of
statesmen, who, on all grave and pressing questions, agreed with
each other and with the majority of the representatives of the
people. The direction of war and of diplomacy the King reserved
to himself; and his servants, conscious that they were less
versed than he in military affairs and in foreign affairs, were
content to leave to him the command of the army, and to know only
what he thought fit to communicate about the instructions which
he gave to his own ambassadors and about the conferences which he
held with the ambassadors of other princes. But, with these
important exceptions, the government was entrusted to what then
began to be called the Ministry.

The first English ministry was gradually formed; nor is it
possible to say quite precisely when it began to exist. But, on
the whole, the date from which the era of ministries may most
properly be reckoned is the day of the meeting of the Parliament
after the general election of 1695. That election had taken place
at a time when peril and distress had called forth all the best
qualities of the nation. The hearts of men were in the struggle
against France for independence, for liberty, and for the
Protestant religion. Everybody knew that such a struggle could
not be carried on without large establishments and heavy taxes.
The government therefore could hardly ask for more than the
country was ready to give. A House of Commons was chosen in which
the Whig party had a decided preponderance. The leaders of that
party had presently been raised, one by one, to the highest
executive offices. The majority, therefore, readily arranged
itself in admirable order under the ministers, and during three
sessions gave them on almost every occasion a cordial support.
The consequence was that the country was rescued from its
dangerous position, and, when that Parliament had lived out its
three years, enjoyed prosperity after a terrible commercial
crisis, peace after a long and sanguinary war, and liberty united
with order after civil troubles which had lasted during two
generations, and in which sometimes order and sometimes liberty
had been in danger of perishing.

Such were the fruits of the general election of 1695. The
ministers had flattered themselves that the general election of
1698 would be equally favourable to them, and that in the new
Parliament the old Parliament would revive. Nor is it strange that
they should have indulged such a hope. Since they had been called
to the direction of affairs every thing had been changed, changed
for the better, and changed chiefly by their wise and resolute
policy, and by the firmness with which their party had stood by
them. There was peace abroad and at home. The sentinels had ceased
to watch by the beacons of Dorsetshire and Sussex. The merchant
ships went forth without fear from the Thames and the Avon.
Soldiers had been disbanded by tens of thousands. Taxes had been
remitted. The value of all public and private securities had
risen. Trade had never been so brisk. Credit had never been so
solid. All over the kingdom the shopkeepers and the farmers, the
artisans and the ploughmen, relieved, beyond all hope, from the
daily and hourly misery of the clipped silver, were blessing the
broad faces of the new shillings and half crowns. The statesmen
whose administration had been so beneficent might be pardoned if
they expected the gratitude and confidence which they had fairly
earned. But it soon became clear that they had served their
country only too well for their own interest. In 1695 adversity
and danger had made men amenable to that control to which it is
the glory of free nations to submit themselves, the control of
superior minds. In 1698 prosperity and security had made men
querulous, fastidious and unmanageable. The government was
assailed with equal violence from widely different quarters. The
opposition, made up of Tories many of whom carried Toryism to the
length of Jacobitism, and of discontented Whigs some of whom
carried Whiggism to the length of republicanism, called itself the
Country party, a name which had been popular before the words Whig
and Tory were known in England. The majority of the late House of
Commons, a majority which had saved the State, was nicknamed the
Court party. The Tory gentry, who were powerful in all the
counties, had special grievances. The whole patronage of the
government, they said, was in Whig hands. The old landed interest,
the old Cavalier interest, had now no share in the favours of the
Crown. Every public office, every bench of justice, every
commission of Lieutenancy, was filled with Roundheads. The Tory
rectors and vicars were not less exasperated. They accused the men
in power of systematically protecting and preferring
Presbyterians, Latitudinarians, Arians, Socinians, Deists,
Atheists. An orthodox divine, a divine who held high the dignity
of the priesthood and the mystical virtue of the sacraments, who
thought schism as great a sin as theft and venerated the Icon as
much as the Gospel, had no more chance of a bishopric or a deanery
than a Papist recusant. Such complaints as these were not likely
to call forth the sympathy of the Whig malecontents. But there
were three war cries in which all the enemies of the government,
from Trenchard to Seymour, could join: No standing army; No grants
of Crown property; and No Dutchmen. Multitudes of honest
freeholders and freemen were weak enough to believe that, unless
the land force, which had already been reduced below what the
public safety required, were altogether disbanded, the nation
would be enslaved, and that, if the estates which the King had
given away were resumed, all direct taxes might be abolished. The
animosity to the Dutch mingled itself both with the animosity to
standing armies and with the animosity to Crown grants. For a
brigade of Dutch troops was part of the military establishment
which was still kept up; and it was to Dutch favourites that
William had been most liberal of the royal domains.

The elections, however, began auspiciously for the government.
The first great contest was in Westminster. It must be remembered
that Westminster was then by far the greatest city in the island,
except only the neighbouring city of London, and contained more
than three times as large a population as Bristol or Norwich,
which came next in size. The right of voting at Westminster was
in the householders paying scot and lot; and the householders
paying scot and lot were many thousands. It is also to be
observed that their political education was much further advanced
than that of the great majority of the electors of the kingdom. A
burgess in a country town, or a forty shilling freeholder in an
agricultural district, then knew little about public affairs
except what he could learn from reading the Postman at the
alehouse, and from hearing, on the 30th of January, the 29th of
May or the 5th of November, a sermon in which questions of state
were discussed with more zeal than sense. But the citizen of
Westminster passed his days in the vicinity of the palace, of the
public offices, of the houses of parliament, of the courts of
law. He was familiar with the faces and voices of ministers,
senators and judges. In anxious times he walked in the great Hall
to pick up news. When there was an important trial, he looked
into the Court of King's Bench, and heard Cowper and Harcourt
contending, and Holt moderating between them. When there was an
interesting debate, in the House of Commons, he could at least
squeeze himself into the lobby or the Court of Requests, and hear
who had spoken, and how and what were the numbers on the
division. He lived in a region of coffeehouses, of booksellers'
shops, of clubs, of pamphlets, of newspapers, of theatres where
poignant allusions to the most exciting questions of the day
perpetually called forth applause and hisses, of pulpits where
the doctrines of the High Churchman, of the Low Churchman, of the
Nonjuror, of the Nonconformist, were explained and defended every
Sunday by the most eloquent and learned divines of every
persuasion. At that time, therefore, the metropolitan electors
were, as a class, decidedly superior in intelligence and
knowledge to the provincial electors.

Montague and Secretary Vernon were the ministerial candidates for
Westminster. They were opposed by Sir Henry Colt, a dull, surly,
stubborn professor of patriotism, who tired everybody to death
with his endless railing at standing armies and placemen. The
electors were summoned to meet on an open space just out of the
streets. The first Lord of the Treasury and the Secretary of
State appeared at the head of three thousand horsemen. Colt's
followers were almost all on foot. He was a favourite with the
keepers of pot-houses, and had enlisted a strong body of porters
and chairmen. The two parties, after exchanging a good deal of
abuse, came to blows. The adherents of the ministers were
victorious, put the adverse mob to the rout, and cudgelled Colt
himself into a muddy ditch. The poll was taken in Westminster
Hall. From the first there was no doubt of the result. But Colt
tried to prolong the contest by bringing up a voter an hour. When
it became clear that this artifice was employed for the purpose
of causing delay, the returning officer took on himself the
responsibility of closing the books, and of declaring Montague
and Vernon duly elected.

At Guildhall the junto was less fortunate. Three ministerial
Aldermen were returned. But the fourth member, Sir John Fleet,
was not only a Tory, but was Governor of the old East India
Company, and had distinguished himself by the pertinacity with
which he had opposed the financial and commercial policy of the
first Lord of the Treasury. While Montague suffered the
mortification of finding that his empire over the city was less
absolute than he had imagined, Wharton, notwithstanding his
acknowledged preeminence in the art of electioneering, underwent
a succession of defeats in boroughs and counties for which he had
expected to name the members. He failed at Brackley, at
Malmesbury and at Cockermouth. He was unable to maintain
possession even of his own strongholds, Wycombe and Aylesbury. He
was beaten in Oxfordshire. The freeholders of Buckinghamshire,
who had been true to him during many years, and who in 1685, when
the Whig party was in the lowest state of depression, had, in
spite of fraud and tyranny, not only placed him at the head of
the poll but put their second votes at his disposal, now rejected
one of his candidates, and could hardly be induced to return the
other, his own brother, by a very small majority.

The elections for Exeter appear to have been in that age observed
by the nation with peculiar interest. For Exeter was not only one
of the largest and most thriving cities in the Kingdom, but was
also the capital of the West of England, and was much frequented
by the gentry of several counties. The franchise was popular.
Party spirit ran high; and the contests were among the fiercest
and the longest of which there is any record in our history.
Seymour had represented Exeter in the Parliament of James, and in
the two first Parliaments of William. In 1695, after a struggle
of several weeks which had attracted much attention not only
here but on the Continent, he had been defeated by two Whig
candidates, and forced to take refuge in a small borough. But
times had changed. He was now returned in his absence by a large
majority; and with him was joined another Tory less able and, if
possible, more unprincipled than himself, Sir Bartholomew Shower.
Shower had been notorious as one of the hangmen of James. When
that cruel King was bent on punishing with death soldiers who
deserted from the army which he kept up in defiance of the
constitution, he found that he could expect no assistance from
Holt, who was the Recorder of London. Holt was accordingly
removed. Shower was made Recorder, and showed his gratitude for
his promotion by sending to Tyburn men who, as every barrister in
the Inns of Court knew, were guilty of no offence at all. He
richly deserved to have been excepted from the Act of Grace, and
left to the vengeance of the laws which he had so foully
perverted. The return which he made for the clemency which spared
him was most characteristic. He missed no opportunity of
thwarting and damaging the Government which had saved him from
the gallows. Having shed innocent blood for the purpose of
enabling James to keep up thirty thousand troops without the
consent of Parliament, he now pretended to think it monstrous
that William should keep up ten thousand with the consent of
Parliament. That a great constituent body should be so forgetful
of the past and so much out of humour with the present as to take
this base and hardhearted pettifogger for a patriot was an omen
which might well justify the most gloomy prognostications.

When the returns were complete, it appeared that the new House of
Commons contained an unusual number of men about whom little was
known, and on whose support neither the government nor the
opposition could with any confidence reckon. The ranks of the
staunch ministerial Whigs were certainly much thinned; but it did
not appear that the Tory ranks were much fuller than before. That
section of the representative body which was Whiggish without
being ministerial had gamed a great accession of strength, and
seemed likely to have, during some time, the fate of the country
in its hands. It was plain that the next session would be a
trying one. Yet it was not impossible that the servants of the
Crown might, by prudent management, succeed in obtaining a
working majority. Towards the close of August the statesmen of
the junto, disappointed and anxious but not hopeless, dispersed
in order to lay in a stock of health and vigour for the next
parliamentary campaign. There were races at that season in the
neighbourhood of Winchenden, Wharton's seat in Buckinghamshire;
and a large party assembled there. Orford, Montague and
Shrewsbury repaired to the muster. But Somers, whose chronic
maladies, aggravated by sedulous application to judicial and
political business, made it necessary for him to avoid crowds and
luxurious banquets, retired to Tunbridge Wells, and tried to
repair his exhausted frame with the water of the springs and the
air of the heath. Just at this moment despatches of the gravest
importance arrived from Guelders at Whitehall.

The long negotiation touching the Spanish succession had at
length been brought to a conclusion. Tallard had joined William
at Loo, and had there met Heinsius and Portland. After much
discussion, the price in consideration of which the House of
Bourbon would consent to waive all claim to Spain and the Indies,
and to support the pretensions of the Electoral Prince of
Bavaria, was definitively settled. The Dauphin was to have the
Province of Guipuscoa, Naples, Sicily and some small Italian
islands which were part of the Spanish monarchy. The Milanese was
allotted to the Archduke Charles. As the Electoral Prince was
still a child, it was agreed that his father, who was then
governing the Spanish Netherlands as Viceroy, should be Regent of
Spain during the minority. Such was the first Partition Treaty, a
treaty which has been during five generations confidently and


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